Familiar God

Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.

“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Mark 6:1-6

A prophet is not without honor except in his own town. We tend not to appreciate things and people with whom we have become familiar. Jesus saw tremendous faith in all kinds of people as He traveled from town to town. Yet, when He got to His own hometown, people there could only see Him as the carpenter, Mary’s son. They couldn’t get past what they were familiar with. They weren’t able to honor who He really was. Jesus was amazed at their lack of faith.

This is a good warning for us, that we can get too familiar–too comfortable–with our friends and loved ones that we know the best. We can start to think we already know what they are about, and we can dismiss them because of it. Rather than continuing to learn from them and continuing to be curious, we can allow our familiarity to breed contempt.

This can happen with good friends, parents, siblings, spouses, and neighbors. I’ve seen it happen a lot in ministry. I’ve seen pastors forget to honor and appreciate their congregation because they were too familiar with them. I’ve seen congregations forget to honor and appreciate their pastor because they grew too comfortable and complacent.

The most troubling thing about Mark 6 is the warning that this is possible to do with God Himself. We can become so familiar with God that we think we already know. We’ve read the Bible. We’ve attended church for years. We’ve heard it all…or so we think. We can become so familiar with God that we stop pursuing Him. We stop learning new things about Him. We stop journeying deeper into our intimacy with Jesus. We stop believing there is more of God to experience than what we are experiencing right now. When this happens, our faith begins to dwindle.

Bobby Connor, a prophetic minister, said it best, “We are too familiar with the God we hardly know.” Let that sink in. God is unfathomable and incomprehensible in His vastness. What we do know about Him we only know because He decided to reveal it to us through scripture, through Jesus, and through the Holy Spirit. We hardly know this God we have become so familiar with. There is SO. MUCH. MORE!

The apostle Paul tried to articulate this truth when he wrote this to the church in Rome:

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
    How unsearchable his judgments,
    and his paths beyond tracing out!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
    Or who has been his counselor?” [Isaiah 40:13]
“Who has ever given to God,
    that God should repay them?” [Job 41:11]
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
    To him be the glory forever! Amen.

Romans 11:33-36

Write to Remember

We have sinned, even as our ancestors did;
    we have done wrong and acted wickedly.
When our ancestors were in Egypt,
    they gave no thought to your miracles;
they did not remember your many kindnesses,
    and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea.

Psalm 106:6-7

The other day I went back a few months and read through my Facebook posts, this blog, and my journal where I record dreams and prophetic words. I was stunned by all the things God had told me that I had forgotten. There were so many things that God did and said that have slipped my mind. I had complete forgotten. Over and over again, one of the main issues that led to Israel’s moments of rebellion was not remembering what God had done. They forgot God’s miracles. They forgot His “kindnesses.” And we do too!

When God speaks to you, write it down. Keep a journal of your thoughts that are inspired by the Lord. Keep a journal of dreams that feel like the Lord speaking. Keep a record of prophetic words that you receive from other people. Write it all down as soon as you can. And then make it a regular practice to go back and review what you’ve written. (This is the part that I tend to forget to do.)

The men of Ephraim, though armed with bows,
    turned back on the day of battle;
they did not keep God’s covenant
    and refused to live by his law.
They forgot what he had done,
    the wonders he had shown them.
He did miracles in the sight of their ancestors
    in the land of Egypt, in the region of Zoan.

Psalm 78:9-12

This is also why testimonies are so important. We need to record the amazing things that God is doing and has done in people’s lives. Keeping a record of testimonies helps us to remember the wonders, the miracles, the breakthroughs, the moments of God’s faithfulness that are so powerful. Remembering what God has done give us courage to face the battles ahead. When we don’t remember–just like the men of Ephraim in Psalm 78–we lose heart when we face the giant in front of us. Faith and trust in the Lord rise up in the present when we remember what God has done in the past.

Go back and remember. What has God said and done in the last few months in your own life?

At my church we’ve decided to try to do a better job of recording testimonies of God moving powerfully in our community. We’ve dedicated a section of our website to it. If God moves powerfully in someone’s life, we are starting to ask them to write it down and submit it to the testimony page of our website. If you need to read a fresh dose of powerful testimonies, here are some good ones: Horizon Church Testimony Page.


From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Matthew 16:21-23

Peter was articulating the common expectation of the Messiah. Everyone expected the Messiah to overthrow the oppressive powers of Rome. Peter’s reaction was a logical reaction to the idea that the Messiah would have to suffer and die. Peter had in mind human concerns but he missed God’s plan. God didn’t just want to overthrow Rome, He wanted to overthrow the very power of sin and death itself. God’s vision was much bigger!

Notice that Jesus first rebukes Satan. Jesus can hear in Peter’s voice the accent of the enemy. Jesus understands that the source of Peter’s rational and reasonable thought was Satan himself. Satan often does his best deceiving when he sounds reasonable and rational. This is how the enemy sounded in the Garden of Eden. It’s how he sounded when he tempted Jesus (Matthew 4). And here the enemy was doing it again.

This is a stark reminder that just because something sounds rational and reasonable doesn’t mean it is from the Lord. The concerns of God are clearly different than the concerns of humanity. God spoke this truth to the prophet Samuel.

“…The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7

The prophet Isaiah also gives us a powerful word from the Lord in this regard.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:8-9

The Bible gives us helpful analogies in our relationship with God so that we can understand how to interact with Him. We have the family analogy where we are sons and daughters of the Father. We have the marriage analogy where the Church is the Bride of Christ. We have the anatomical analogy where the Church is the Body of Christ. We have the friendship analogy where Jesus no longer calls us servants but friends. We have the sibling analogy where Christ, the firstborn from the dead, is our brother. We have the Kingdom analogy where we are a royal priesthood.

All of these analogies and pictures help us understand how to connect with and relate to God. But we should never assume God is just like us. In fact, the goal in the Christian life is to become more and more like Him. This should tells us that our starting line is the truth that we are not exactly like Him. Yet, the fact that were originally created in God’s image, that in Christ we are new creations, and that we have the Spirit of God dwelling in us gives us hope that we can grow to become more and more like Jesus.

God is so loving that He can’t help but want to draw near to us. But He is also completely “other” than us. He thinks differently, acts differently, and feels differently than we do. Our job is to learn His ways so that we can conform our life to His (not to demand that He conform His ways to ours).

Where is God calling you to conform your ways to His, your plans to His, or your thoughts to His?

Created to be like God

Notice what the Ephesians were taught about their old life before Jesus and their new life in Christ:

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Ephesians 4:22-24

Being a follower of Jesus means, in one sense, that our old self is dead and we have been made a new creation⏤all of this in the past tense. Paul tells the Romans to “count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus”(Romans 6:11).

Yet, there is also a sense that this activity of putting off the old self is one that is continuous. We must be continually choosing to live in the reality of our new life in Christ. This process starts by stepping away from our old life and changing the way we think. Our minds are the first battleground of the new life in Christ. Our minds are Jericho.

That’s why here Paul says “to be made new in the attitude of your minds,” and to the Romans he says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind”(Romans 12:2). Just as we put on clothes by putting our head through first and then pulling it down around our torso, the same is true when we are clothed with Christ (Galatians 3:27); it begins with a change in our thinking, a renewal of the mind.

What is truly amazing is how our new life is described here. Our new self, our life as a new creation in Christ, was “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” In other words, we were made righteous so that we could live righteously, not so that we could continually sin and get away with it. Paul asked the Romans, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!”(Romans 6:1-2).

What this means is that this new life we’ve been given in Christ has new tendencies. Whereas in our old self, we had a tendency toward sin and selfishness, in this new life we have a tendency toward holiness and righteousness. We’re no longer miserable sinners but glorious saints. Our identity has been radically changed. This new life we’ve been given was designed to be holy. When we are not holy, when we live unrighteous lives, we are living outside of its design. It was created to be righteous.

When I take my son to the batting cage, the purpose of me putting the coins in and paying for all of those balls to be pitched to him is so that he will hit them. At the batting cage there are no strikes being tallied. All the strikes have been paid for. They don’t exist anymore. But they weren’t removed so that my son could stand there and miss ball after ball. They weren’t removed so that he could earn a “walk” to first base. The whole reason strikes were removed was so that he would get to a place where he could hit every ball that comes at him.

Our sin was totally removed by Jesus’s death on the cross and resurrection from the grave. But our sin wasn’t removed so we could keep sinning and not care about it. Our sin was removed so that we could finally live holy. Not only were we made holy by Christ, but His grace enables us to live holy. His grace not only wipes our slate clean, but it empowers us to live righteous lives that would otherwise be impossible.